Walking around with Flat Kathy: An introduction to a magical world?

Flat Kathy after her Valentine's Day makeover

Flat Kathy after her Valentine’s Day makeover

It is not easy to walk around with Flat Kathy.

For all strangers, or rather, people whom Flat Kathy hasn’t yet demanded I introduce her to, she is simply a sheet of sunshine yellow paper on a stick. With a couple of buttons and some woolly hair sewn on.

She is, I freely admit it, “a bit odd”.

The looks I’ve gotten, both from people who don’t know me from a bar of soap, and those who do happen to know me (and who perhaps have always suspected that I’m a little off-centre), have ranged from the outright, full-frontal “WTF?” to the startled double-take turn-around-in-the-street, “Good grief, are mine eyes deceiving me?” to the sidelong, surreptitious, pretending-they’re-not-curious, “What is that thing she’s carrying around?”.

Responses have also included the no-nonsense psychological assessment, “Oh fiddlesticks (or its equivalent), she’s definitely lost the plot now; I think she’s off her meds.” (That’s from a couple of my best friends, by the way.)

Flat Kathy shares a plate of cookies with Gilbert the Gnome

Flat Kathy shares a plate of cookies with Gilbert the Gnome

I’m not exactly a raging extrovert. I don’t habitually stride up to perfect strangers and start talking with them. Oh… hold on… OK, I do sometimes. But I see myself as really rather shy. I prefer being in the background, observing and assessing, before I work up the courage to approach someone.

Flat Kathy is a shy person’s nightmare. Or – if you prefer the mature approach of “Life gives you certain lessons that you need to learn and master” – a shy person’s greatest and most challenging lesson.

The thing is that Flat Kathy, despite her name (which really should give her a bit of a clue), doesn’t see herself as “a yellow sheet of paper on a stick”. She sees herself as having a personality and a life, quite independent of yours. I know, you’re probably starting to agree with my friends’ psychological assessment… but bear with me. Besides, she hasn’t lived in your garden flat for two weeks – charming the normally recalcitrant Gilbert the Gnome and a sometimes rather cranky Tuffy-Cat!

Flat Kathy has become firm friends with Tuffy-Cat

Flat Kathy has become firm friends with Tuffy-Cat

If you spend time around her, you’ll start to realise that she has her own opinions on things, is insatiably curious about everything, wants to meet and make friends with absolutely everybody, and is entirely without a shred of fear. Well, she doesn’t like water and is rather leery of fire, but, given that she’s made of paper (i.e. drownable and flammable), I can quite understand that.

So when I introduce her – or rather, when she prods and nags and whines (yes, she can whine too) until I introduce her – to someone, I have to pretend that she’s a real person. Because that’s how she sees herself.

I count myself incredibly lucky that so many of the dear sweet people to whom I have introduced Flat Kathy, have played along with the illusion: Richard’s aunt who had lunch with us and who allowed her to meet the miracle dog that survived the cobra bite; Dr Lizette, Dr Felix and Little N, at whose ‘clinic’ she stayed for a few days; the friendly sales assistant at Thimbles in Durbanville who found us some wool so that we could give Flat Kathy colourful braids; my friend Kimberley whom she surprised with a packet of cupcakes; my mom (Aunty Karin) who lent her a lovely handmade doll’s bed; and – most memorably – the two dashing officers at the Castle of Good Hope. As well as Richard, of course, who, together with my mom, braved the throngs of tourists around the penguins at Boulders Beach and the lighthouse at Cape Point, so that I could get my photographs of Flat Kathy in these famous Cape Town destinations.

Flat Kathy makes some friends at Little N's Clinic

Flat Kathy makes some friends at Little N’s Clinic

They did so with grace, with good humour, with playfulness, with a mischievous and perfectly delightful silliness. They displayed a willingness to tap into their inner child, even when that part of themselves has been deeply buried. I admire and adore and love them for playing along; it has made my task as tour guide, mentor and friend to Flat Kathy so much easier.

Now I hope I haven’t put you off volunteering to invite Flat Kathy to visit you and your family for a couple of days – or even a week or two!

There are considerable advantages to having her around, you know. She is great with kids (somehow, they can relate to her – perhaps it’s her cheerful yellow colour and that big radiant smile?); she can be very quiet and comforting if you’re feeling tired and grouchy; she is surprisingly easy to talk to (er… not that I’ve talked to her that much, of course… um…); and you can plonk her down in front of the telly or in front of a window that faces the garden or the street or some other view, for hours on end, while you go about the rest of your life. Unlike other visitors, she doesn’t need or even demand to be entertained or fed or otherwise kept occupied.

But, if you do work up the courage to take her exploring the outside world with you – ohhh! You will have so much fun! You can use her as the reason why you simply must take a couple of days off to show her around! You can do all the touristy and even cheesy things at which you would normally turn your nose up – because it will be so much more fun with her!

Richard bravely ignores the milling tourists to pose with Flat Kathy in front of the old lighthouse at Cape Point

Richard bravely ignores the milling tourists to pose with Flat Kathy in front of the old lighthouse at Cape Point

For your first excursion(s), I recommend taking along a spouse or a good friend or a child, someone who is willing to be goofy and silly and whacky. Besides, it is hugely helpful to have someone who is willing to hold her stick, so that you can frame the picture properly – holding her at arm’s length with the left hand, while trying to take a photo with the right hand is rather tricky.

But for a brief, wonderful, magical period of time, you can put aside all the cares and worries and fears and frustrations that being a responsible adult in a high-powered and demanding world brings with it.

And that is the magic offered to us all by Flat Kathy.

Go on, invite her for a visit. You’ll love it!

11 thoughts on “Walking around with Flat Kathy: An introduction to a magical world?

  1. You have totally nailed it. F.K. brings out the child in us. It’s hard not to have fun with her around. We got some fun looks when we took her to a tea shop in Halifax, and offered to share sticky cake with her.

    I am so excited for her, and for the rest of us who follow her adventures.

    P.S. Love the Valentine make-over !

  2. Pingback: The Dramatic Tale of Miss Tuffy-Cat « The Fantastical Voyages of Flat Kathy

  3. I think it’s good to sometimes do something seemingly out of character to shake up people’s perceptions of you. :-)

    You’ve done such an incredible job with the Flat Kathy blog. I’m not sure that anybody could live up to your standards. Am amazed at how you got Richard, your mother and others to participate! You’ve got really bold sometimes – taking Flat Kathy to the Castle etc.

    • Thank you, Lisa. :-)

      As you’ve no doubt noticed, things have been a little quiet on both our blogs, as we’ve been a little preoccupied with other things. But I’m looking forward to taking her along to the CANSA Shavathon tomorrow (I’m curious to see what Flat Kathy will do – she’s not sure she wants to shave her lovely new locks off that have graced her head since Valentine’s Day, so perhaps she’ll just pay the R50 bail-out fee, we’ll have to see) and there’s the possibility of an outing with our dear friends Dr L, Dr V and Little N that we’re looking forward to. Anyway, we shall keep you all posted!

  4. I am so proud of you! I would be a nervous wreck to be carrying a stick (excuse me, FK) around and introducing her. You have to be the most confident person in the world! Or someone who has a children’s book in mind in the near future…

    • LOL! (Shhhh, I do have such an idea, but don’t tell anyone! ;-))

      Honestly, Kathy, it helps if you have at least one willingly playful friend accompanying you when you venture out into the world with Flat Kathy. Or a Mom. That helps too. ;-)

  5. I was so fortunate to meet Flat Kathy on her travels around Cape Town. Reggie brought her to the Castle to meet me. What a splendid chat the three of us had over a cup of tea and some chocolate muffins. I did suggest that she have her hair braided, as so many visitors who come to Africa do. I really thought it would suit her. Thank you Flat Kathy for taking the time to visit. So glad you liked the Castle. Happy travelling my friend.Enjoy your journey. Kind regards Elsette

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